(Photo: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
A Gary, Ind., pastor speaking out against what he believes is the country's unjust war on drugs not only says drugs should be decriminalized, but also believes that "God is not that petty" to care if Christians, or anyone else, smokes marijuana.
The Rev. John Jackson, who leads Trinity United Church of Christ, told The Tennessean that he thinks there should be options other than incarceration for those convicted of drug use, and that God has other concerns beyond marijuana use.
"I've had several members who have shared with me privately (and) said, 'Reverend, you know, I smoke weed. I know I shouldn't.' Let me stop you right there. The God we serve, I don't believe, is that small or petty to be concerned about you smoking weed or cigarette," Jackson told the publication. "I don't think God cares about that. Just to let them know, our God is too big to be concerned about somebody smoking a joint, smoking a cigarette or even drinking a glass of beer."
"God does not care if you smoke weed," the article quoted Jackson as saying.
The reverend and former Chicago police officer was among a group of clergy who recently gathered at the American Baptist College in Nashville to discuss the war on drugs that disproportionately affects minorities and the poor.
Such a reality compelled another clergyman, the Rev. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College, to call the war on drugs "a moral injustice."
He added, commenting on drug use being viewed by some as inherently evil: "Deep down, we believe that putting these drugs in our bodies is a sin."
While The Tennessean report highlighted divergent views on whether drug users should be imprisoned or given treatment, and discussed the long-lasting, and sometimes generational, effects of drug convictions, some readers seemed particularly struck by the Rev. Jackson's suggestion that God does not care about marijuana use.
One reader, citing 1 Corinthians 6:10, 1 Peter 1:13 and 4:7 about "drunkards" and being "sober," shared the view that Jackson is mistaken.
"Drugs used to get high on with on a regular basis is a gateway to all sorts of wrong doings. And those who minds are not sober are easy tools for Satan," the reader commented, adding: "Any pastor says that pot smoking is not against the will of God, are definitely not getting their facts from the Bible I am reading or from the same god I am getting my truth from."
Another reader simply posted Genesis 1:29, which reads in the KJV: "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."
The debate over drug use in general has proven to be a divisive one among Christians, according to a April survey published by the Public Religion Research Institute.
The PRRI/RNS poll found that in general, 45 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, while 49 percent are opposed; 49 percent believe marijuana use is morally acceptable while 40 percent disagree. As for the percentage of Christians in favor of legalizing the substance, 29 percent of evangelical Protestants, 40 percent of Catholics and 49 percent of white mainline Protestants believe that it should be decriminalized. Younger and older Christians are also on opposite ends of the opinion poll, with 50 percent of Christian young adults (18-29) in favor of legalizing pot and 40 percent against, and approximately 22 percent of Christian seniors (65 and older) agreeing with their younger counterparts. Furthermore, the survey found that white evangelical Protestants were more divided than any other religious group on the sinfulness of using marijuana — 40 percent say it is a sin, while 48 percent say it is not a sin.
Seattle megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll, whose state legalized marijuana use in December, took on the issue in December with a free ebook he authored, titled Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?
With all the questions on the issue he has gotten over the years, Driscoll said his "default answer has been Romans 13:1–7, which basically says that believers must submit to the laws of government as long as there is no conflict with the higher laws of God in Scripture."
But since recreational marijuana use has become legal in several states, the Mars Hill Church leader has found that the "guiding question" has now become: "Is using marijuana sinful, or is it wise?"
"Some things are neither illegal (forbidden by government in laws) nor sinful (forbidden by God in Scripture), but they are unwise," Driscoll suggested.
"For example, eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful — it's just foolish. This explains why the Bible speaks not only of sin, but also folly, particularly in places such as the book of Proverbs. There are innumerable things that won't get you arrested or brought under church discipline, but they are just foolish and unwise — the kinds of things people often refer to by saying, 'That's just stupid.'"
"We know that not everyone will agree on these issues, but we hope that many find this resource useful," Driscoll previously told The Christian Post in reference to the Puff or Pass ebook.
A total of 18 states, plus D.C., allow residents to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.